Artist Mike Helbing has won the competition to create a sculpture for the city’s gateway.
Raised in Shelbyville, Mike is the son of the late Clarence “Butch” Helbing, PhD, an engineer and chemist at Knauf Fiberglass for 40 years who held a number of related patents.
Announcing the winning sculpture Friday morning, Mayor Tom DeBaun said the public art piece will be a landmark for the city.
“It’s a bold step in the progress of our community,” he told an audience of about 40 people Friday at City Hall.
Seven artists submitted ideas for the sculpture; their scale models have been on display outside the mayor’s office since February.
The winner was chosen by a committee made up of representatives from city government, the Blue River Community Foundation, the Shelby Arts Alliance, the Shelby County Tourism & Visitors Bureau, Mainstreet Shelbyville and nearby business owners.
According to the request for submissions, the sculpture was to represent the river which flows just a few yards from the site where it will be placed, the adjacent bike-pedestrian trail along the river, and the historic nature of the location.
Helbing’s work is meant to show the cycle of water, “from a thundercloud, rain and river,” according to his description.
“The artist was inspired by the rainstorms of Indiana,” said Amy Haacker, executive director of the Blue River Community Foundation, at Friday’s announcement.
Made of steel to resist the elements, “Blue River Wind, Rain and Water” as the sculpture is called will stand 37 feet high.
Long, curling strands above represent clouds; thin parallel strands in the piece show rain; a thicker strand which forks represents the Big Blue and Little Blue Rivers that flow through Shelby County as well as lightning.
A pathway at the base of the artwork will allow people to walk through the sculpture which will be lit at night.
Regarding the historic element, the artwork is to be placed near the Porter Center, 501 N. Harrison Street, an Art Deco structure built in 1930 that for decades was the bathhouse for the city pool.
The sculpture will also serve as a gateway to the city’s historic Public Square and downtown area.
A fee of $150,000 is to be paid for the sculpture to cover all costs including installation. The city of Shelbyville committed $50,000 in racino money; the community foundation contributed $50,000; the Shelby County Tourism & Visitors Bureau gave $25,000; private funding makes up the rest, said Haacker.
Blue River Wind, Rain and Water is to be installed at the North Harrison Street site by November.